Teen drivers, and their parents and guardians, need to be aware of the legal obligations and consequences that come with being a teen behind the wheel.

The Risk Statistics

While young people (ages 16 to 24) only make up 13% of licensed drivers, they account for approximately one quarter of all road-related injuries and fatalities. Teenagers are known to demonstrate increased risk taking behaviour, including distracted, impaired and aggressive driving and failure to wear seatbelts.  Statistics to consider:

-every year, 2,000 people die in Canada in motor vehicle collisions

-forty per cent of speeding drivers in fatal crashes are between 16 and 24 years old

-a texting driver is 23 times more likely to crash than a non-texting driver

-human error accounts for 93% of all crashes

Texting and driving is also a growing problem.  Almost all young adults feel that texting and driving is very dangerous, but over half still admit to doing it anyway (click here for more on distracted driving).

How to Protect Teens – and Parents/Guardians?  Know the Rules

Parents, guardians and teens should be informed of the various laws governing young drivers, including the Highway Traffic Act, the graduated licensing rules and the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Regulation called Drivers Licences sets out many of the rules regarding graduated licences.  For example, in Ontario, there is a zero alcohol condition for all drivers under 22 years old. Drivers with G1 and G2 graduated licences also face restrictions on where they drive, with whom and when.

Novice drivers face escalating penalties for violations of the law and regulations (including if convicted of breaking graduated licensing rules). For a first offence, a drivers licence is suspended for 30 days. For a second offence, the suspension is for 90 days. After a third offence, a driver will lose his or her novice licence and will need to re-apply and start all over, taking all graduated licensing tests and paying all fees (and losing any time discount earned, time credited and fees paid).

Vicarious Liability – Owners Beware

Potentially serious injuries are not the only consequences of accidents involving teen drivers.  If a teen is driving a vehicle owned and insured in his or her name, an accident can have long-term economic consequences, including significant insurance premiums and impact on driving history and insurability. The law states that the driver of a motor vehicle is liable for loss or damage sustained by any person by reason of negligence in the operation of the motor vehicle.

But what about a teen driving a vehicle owned by a parent or guardian?  The Highway Traffic Act provides that the owner of a motor vehicle is liable for loss or damage, unless the motor vehicle was without the owners consent in the possession of some person other than the owner.  If you allow your teen to use your car, be wary.  Even placing restrictions on the teens use of a vehicle will not protect an owner from liability – if the teen is in possession of the vehicle with consent, the owner will be liable.

Also, if a young driver is permitted to drive a vehicle when he or she is not authorized by law to drive (for example, due to alcohol consumption or breaching the graduated licensing rules), the owner of the vehicle risks having no insurance coverage for the owner or the young driver in the event of an accident.  

Take the time to discuss road safety (#NTDSW) and compliance with the law before your teen gets behind the wheel.  And make sure you have enough liability and collision coverage.

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